EABL appoints Jane Karuku as new Managing Director for its East African drinks businesses

KENYA – The Board of East Africa’s leading alcoholic drinks company East African Breweries Limited (EABL) has appointed Jane Karuku as the new new Group Managing Director for the Group’s drinks business in the region.

A member of the EABL Board and the current Managing Director for EABL’s Kenyan subsidiary KBL, Jane will be replaced in her current position by John Musunga, who will join EABL from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) where he has been responsible for leading GSK’s vaccines business in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Eastern Europe.

According to the company, the appointment of Jane will take effect from 1st January 2021 when she will replace the current MD of the Group Andrew Cowan, while Musunga will officially join the brewer on 1st March 2021.

The company says that Cowan will remain a member of EABL Board. He was appointed Group Managing Director & CEO in July 2016. 

He will become the Managing Director of Diageo’s Africa regional markets, which comprise of Daigeo’s operations in Ghana, Cameroon, Ethiopia, the Indian Ocean islands and Angola. He will be taking over from Hina Nagarajan, who will join Diageo’s Indian subsidiary United Spirits Ltd as MD and CEO.

With an illustrious career in Kenya, Jane was appointed KBL MD in September 2013, before which she was the President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), an African agriculture focused institution with a goal of increasing and improving food security in the Continent.

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Previously she had held a number of senior positions in various companies including Deputy CEO and Secretary General of Kenyan telecoms company Telkom Kenya and Managing Director, Cadbury East and Central Africa.

She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Food Science and Technology from the University of Nairobi and an MBA in Marketing from the National University of California. 

She is currently the Chairperson of Kenya’s Vision 2030 Board and recently chaired a taskforce put together by the President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta to seek for funds and support for the country’s response for the Covid-19 pandemic.

Jane has her work cut out for her in the region, especially in getting back the company on a growth path in the middle of the pandemic.

In the company’s latest financial report, the brewer reported a volume reduction of 11% and net sales drop of 9%, with gross profit and profit after tax slipping 13% and 39% respectively, as Covid-19 repercussions on jobs, distribution and on-trade sales disruption plus consumer down-trading and growth of illicit drinks took their toll on the company’s performance.

Investments increase in the region

With responsibility for the company’s businesses that straddle Kenya (Kenya Breweries Ltd, UDV and Kenya Maltings), Uganda (Uganda Breweries Ltd) and Tanzania (Serengeti Breweries), she will be taking over an agile organization that has turned to investments in plant capabilities and aggressive innovation to grow its bottom line and bring in new consumers on its side.

The company’s new investment in the once closed brewery in Kisumu in western Kenya is a case in point, where its low cost, high volume Senator beer is currently brewed for that region’s consumers using local sorghum grain.

With an plan to spend US$ 20 million (KSH 2 billion) in capacity expansion for its businesses plus US$ 9.4 million (KSH 939 million) set aside in the financial year 2020 for its Kisumu brewery, the brewer is set to take advantage of any uptick of business post-Covid.

On the innovations front, the brewer has expanded its range of beer products in cans during the pandemic, while new spirits to cater for a consumer base that has tended to prefer spirits during the lockdown has come in handy in making the business remain active and visible.

The company’s recent new product innovations include Guinness Smooth, Tusker Premium Ale, Hop House 13 Lager, Tusker Cider and Sikera Cider. In the spirits space the company recently introduced Chrome Gin, adding to its growing stable of locally produced and imported brands that cater for all ranges of consumers.

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